Alarm over looming congestion as new academic year begins

Monday, August 2nd, 2021 00:00 |
Pupils of Ogenya Primary School in Nyando, Kisumu county learn under trees. Photo/PD/VIOLA KOSOME

A majority of schools across the country are staring at huge infrastructure and staffing challenges as they usher in the new academic calendar.

Amid the looming infrastructure crisis, especially in secondary schools as Form One students report starting today, most school heads are in dilemma on how institutions they head will accommodate the high numbers of students going by the government’s 100 per cent transition policy.

Raising concern over possible congestion in the basic learning institutions, principals from a number of schools told Scholar they are contemplating coming up with innovative ways to cope with the expected high enrollment.

They hinted at converting laboratories, stores, libraries, corridors, halls and initially unused buildings into classrooms and dormitories to accommodate the high number of students due to shortage of facilities.

For instance, in Migori county, St Peter’s Abwao Secondary School in Suna West Constituency is putting up modalities on how to accommodate extra students.

Principal Jacktone Ogola said they are expecting over 400 Form One students, which is 75.2 per cent of the current school population of 532 boys.

“The ministry gave us 300 admission slots, which was already more than double what we had.

The other 100 are learners who have asked for a chance at the school and we can’t turn them away,” Ogola said.

Teacher Ogola states that in order to effectively manage the situation they will need 13 more teachers. 

Currently, the school has nine teachers employed by the board of management, while the Teachers Service Commission has employed 12.

“We will turn a library and a laboratory into classes and build a makeshift dorm by next term,” he said.

His Masara Mixed Secondary School counterpart Daniel Aloka said his institution expects more than 400 Form One admissions.

“On normal occasions our school operates on two-streams, but with the high numbers, we may expand to four streams.

This means that we urgently need two more classrooms and a dormitory to house 200 boys,” Aloka says.

Bad situation worse

Last week, education stakeholders in Migori held consultative meetings across eight sub-counties to brainstorm how to deal with the infrastructure challenge in schools.

During the forums that brought together Ministry of Education and teachers union officials, school heads were concerned that their institutions would face a crisis in accommodating anticipated high numbers.

County education officer Jacob Onyiego said the meetings were meant to prepare the schools deal with anticipated high number of students.

Onyiego said the ongoing implementation of the government’s 100 per cent transition policy could see most schools record increased enrollments.

“From our records, we can tell that most schools expect high numbers of new students.

Therefore, we want the management of the institutions to be creative on how they can deal with the situation,” Onyiego said.

In Homa Bay county, a primary school in Ndhiwa constituency is on the verge of closure following a mass exodus of learners due to an acute shortage of essential learning utilities.

Kodida Primary School in Kwabwai ward in the constituency is grappling with a problem of accommodating pupils due to inadequate and poor learning facilities, a situation that has seen many parents transfer their children from the institution.

Besides facing a crisis in shortage of proper classrooms and latrines, the school is yet to have water supply, which is essential for daily operations, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The learning facility has dilapidated classrooms made of worn out iron sheets and only two community-built latrines, which are shared by teachers and pupils.

George Midianga, the school board of management chair says the deplorable state of affairs has triggered mass transfers from the institution.

Midianga expressed fear that they may witness more leaners leaving the school if long lasting interventions are not provided soon.

He points out that there has been slow progress towards achieving the needed utilities in the school despite numerous appeals for assistance.

“The entire community is worried over the fate of the school, which is in deep crisis. 

We are also concerned whether new pupils will be coming to seek admission at the school,” Midianga told Scholar.

Consequently, the school, which was established through a community initiative a few years ago before being handed over to the education ministry has about 162 pupils left after the mass transfers.

“Parents say the school’s learning standard is below par and that the poor state of classrooms informed their decisions to relocate their children,” he said.

Increase capitation funds

The chairman says the area National-Government Constituency Development Fund only gave Sh300,000 which was partly used to construct an iron-structured administration block at the school.

He states that shortage of classrooms at the school is forcing some pupils to study under trees and are often released to go home early when signs of rainfall begin to show.

“We have two other classes under construction courtesy of an initiative by the community and well-wishers. For optimum operation, we need six more classrooms in the school,” he added.

In Kisumu, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) county branch executive Secretary Zablon Awange recommends that the government increases the capitation funds to help the institutions run effectively particularly under circumstances brought about by coronavirus pandemic.

He urges the Ministry of Education to fast-track delivery of development funds meant for infrastructure in schools to help the institutions deal with likely congestion during Form One admissions.

He points out that despite the government efforts to supply desks and books to schools, a lot still needed to be done to address the underlying challenges facing delivery of quality basic education.

“Going by the government policy of 100 per cent transition, many schools have exceeded their capacity.

This portends the challenges particularly in individual attention required for academic success and also healthwise in the war against Covid-19 through social distancing,” he said, adding, “Schools need tangible action in this new congested academic calendar meant to recover from the Covid-19 academic losses.”

Speaking in Kisumu recently, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced that as part of the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) rollout plan, the government will construct additional classrooms under the schools infrastructural development programme.

Magoha said the ministry had earmarked Sh4.2 billion for additional infrastructure in the basic learning institutions in this financial year’s budget.

Out of the allocation, Sh1.9 billion was meant for procuring more desks where as one billion will go to secondary schools and the remaining Sh900 million to primary schools. 

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